Lies and damned lies

The recent announcement that the government are postponing doing any checks on imports from the EU to July 2022 (from January 2022, from October 2021, from January 2021) has got me thinking about the various promises made by Boris Johnson and his cabinet of horrors.

Let’s start with “Let’s Get Brexit Done”, the slogan which I’m confident won him his 80 seat majority in 2019. (If you haven’t read it, can I reference my “This will never end” post from some years ago now). Obviously this is further postponing anything looking remotely like “getting Brexit done”. I will concede that in one sense it’s a very sensible move – were we to introduce physical border checks next month, I think the probability of food shortages which would eclipse those we’re already seeing would rise to nearly 100%. After all, the labour shortages caused by removing upwards of 200,000 EU workers from the economy have already made us more dependent on imports of food than we were before Brexit. But it is absolutely NOT “getting Brexit done”.

Let’s move on to the Leave campaign’s “taking control of our borders”. Now, the EU managed very efficiently to take control of their borders with effect from January 1st of this year, instituting customs checks which have resulted in days of delay at ports and many millions of pounds of rejected and spoiled goods. But we were not ready, despite having had from 2016 to 2020 to put systems in place, and we still apparently aren’t. We are not controlling our borders with the EU at all so far as goods is concerned (except for the one EU border they were unable to take control of, because it is within the UK, in the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and England, Scotland and Wales). All our attempts with the NI border so far to comply with our treaty obligations and actually do the necessary checks properly have partly failed, partly just resulted in economic and political turmoil. Add to that that while we seem keen to make life difficult for EU citizens with a perfect right to come to the UK, we are so unable to stem the flow of refugees across the Channel that we’ve asked the French for help.

How about Boris’ “Oven ready deal”, which was another slogan which contributed to his 2019 win. That phrasing related mostly to the Northern Ireland protocol, which kept NI in the common market and customs union so as not to have a land border in Ireland and tear up the Good Friday agreement. Now, David Frost, the man who actually negotiated the oven ready deal, is saying it’s a bad deal and has to be renegotiated. And he got made a Lord for his work on that – and a member of the Cabinet. Which makes him an “unelected bureucrat” running the country. Do I not remember “get rid of unelected bureucrats running the country” as another clarion call of the Brexiteers as something we’d get rid of?

Lastly, at least for the moment, is the “stop foreigners stealing our jobs” which was not an official campaign slogan in 2016, but which was muttered by a huge proportion of Brexiteer voters. Well, we’ve persuaded or forced over 200,000 EU nationals to leave – and we’re flying in fruit pickers from as far away as Nepal to fill the jobs which, apparently, no-one in this country wants to do.  We’re short of lorry drivers, warehouse workers, food production workers, nurses, doctors, hospitality industry staff… and the list goes on.

(Edited to add) Boris assured us, back in 2016, that once Brexit went through we would see cheaper energy. We now face a hike in wholesale gas prices of around 300%. OK, the wholesale prices in Europe have gone up too – but only by around 50%… we, on the other hand, also left the EU energy market And, speaking personally, our energy supplier has gone bust; we’re not sure what the repercussions of that are going to be, apart from everything costing more.

What we’re not short of, it seems, is lying Conservative politicians. Though other MPs aren’t allowed to point out that they’ve lied – it’s the person pointing it out, not the liar, who is excluded from the House of Commons. And, of course, no-one who can be “got at” by the government (which, sadly, includes the BBC) is allowed to blame Brexit for anything at all…

Yorkshire bylines thinks we’re in danger of seeing the England of Orwell’s nightmare vision in “1984” realised. I just trust that we’ll have an election earlier rather than later, hope above hope that Labour and the LibDems can get some electoral pact going and form a non-Tory government together – and undo as much as possible of the nonsense which is Brexit. Because if we don’t, I can see no option other than a revolution to shift them, and I really don’t want a revolution.

Just in passing, we seem to have most of what was decried as a ridiculous “worst case scenario”:-
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9/11 and afterwards

We are about to have another anniversary of 9/11, this being the 20th, and it is also marked by a rather messy withdrawal from Afghanistan by US and UK troops at the end of last month. No doubt we will hear a lot more about the events of that day; as I finish writing this, there’s someone on the radio talking about it. I wrote at some length about my reaction to our military incursions in the Middle East which stemmed from 9/11 some years ago; while I might criticise the manner of the withdrawal, withdrawing is definitely something I regard as overdue.

Tripp Fuller, of Homebrewed Christianity, has joined with Brian McLaren and Diana Butler-Bass to do a set of meditations on Christianity in the years since 9/11 which is in its third week now. I wasn’t going to subscribe to that, for two main reasons. The first is that the shock of 9/11 was primarily an American one. Yes, I can remember where I was when I heard of it – I was in a coffee break from a Law Society continuing education course (on money laundering) at a Leeds hotel and was telephoned while in the car park by a friend who was in international banking, and he told me about the first plane strike and suggested that I find a television. A friend on the course said I looked as if I’d had a severe shock – which I had; my banker friend and myself had a couple of mutual acquaintances who should have been in the Twin Towers (as it happened, we found out later that they weren’t there at the time). Going back into the hotel, we found many staff members in the hotel office, and watched over their shoulders as the second plane impacted the towers.

It was intrinsically shocking. But it wasn’t as shocking as it was to my American friends. It wasn’t my country’s iconic skyscrapers which were falling down, after all, and whereas the States had prior to that been free of major terrorist attacks (OK, with the exception of some home-grown ones), I’d lived through the “troubles” in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1998, and quite apart from being a weekly event in Northern Ireland those not infrequently spilled over into bomb attacks in England. We were used to terrorist attacks, and we were not used to feeling completely safe from them – even those of us who were not, like me, from the now disbanded Civil Defence establishment and were therefore used to thinking of potential dangers to society beyond the nuclear attacks which the system was primarily intended to deal with. Tripp suggested in one of the sessions that the whole Western World was shocked, but in conscience I think that is elevating the USA to the leadership status it would like to think it had, but which the rest of the West have been less willing to acknowledge. I didn’t, for instance, feel any great sense of shock that this huge military power could be “proved weak” in this way, if indeed that represented weakness.

I also fancied that the sessions would be far more about the effects in American Christianity than in that in the UK. OK, I’ll admit here that I succumbed after getting a taster of the first session, and will probably follow until the end, but I think I’m right in thinking that they will continue to have far more applicability to Americans than to the British (or, indeed, Europeans more generally), and that is not a criticism, just an observation.

The second reason, though, is a purely personal one. Barry Taylor recently mused in a patron-only reflection on the fact that we can be moved by far off catastrophes but things are completely different when someone close to you is involved. In my case, the personal is the fact that on 9/12/2001, my father died suddenly and unexpectedly, and a fixed light of my life until then vanished. He felt unwell in the mid-afternoon, and was dead by 9 p.m.

And, of course, every time 9/11 comes round and is remembered, it is my own loss the next day which looms largest in my mind, even as people quite reasonably mourn the deaths on 9/11 (after all, I’m very keen on John Donne’s “No man is an island”, so
“Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee”),
and I have to confess to feeling irritated by that reminder. I feel guilty about this, even though it’s a completely natural reaction, because one death after a very full life hardly equates to nearly three thousand, many of them with many years cut short. But they weren’t people I knew, and in particular they weren’t the man I most looked up to for 48 years.

But then, maybe it is actually good that I be reminded every year. I’ve lost many other relatives and friends, and with one exception I don’t remember their dates of death and pause then to think of them – I do that when something else reminds me of them, and in some cases that’s fairly seldom. I wouldn’t want to let my dad’s memory fade, and it isn’t likely to.

The exception? Well, that’s my mother, who died on New Years’ Eve 2014, halfway through eating her pudding at dinner time, missing seeing in 2015 by about 6 hours.